George Dickel 14 Year Old Tennessee Whiskey

Image

As we hopefully begin our journey into the welcome arms of spring, I’m bringing my preference for fall themed and season friendly rhetoric full circle. I’ll be ceremoniously shelving it until the cool autumn winds are once again refreshing on tan faces, and the smells of dried earth and sounds of rustling leaves replace the humid wafts of honeysuckle and willows shifting in the breeze.

Bourbon is a drink of the fall and winter. Warming company by a fireside, or a welcome companion with an upturned coat collar walking with you against the brisk wind. Bourbon is a drink of comfort and friendship, warmth and ceremony. It is a dram intertwined in the spirit of the seasons we most associate with retreat, hibernation, family, and cheer.

So it is with a special reluctance that I shelve these opportune whiskey seasons, but with with a reserved excitement that there is no season to retire bourbon or the enjoyment, and camaraderie we draw from it. We say goodbye to a season, but not to a comfort. I look forward to celebrating Spring with my bourbon, and with you all. Although we are still crunching through snow, a March Winter is a concept I refuse to celebrate and a detestable habit of Mother Nature. So as Whiskey Frontier officially retires Winter, I close the season with a review of a bourbon I felt very well represented the things I love about late Fall, and possessed the characteristics I believe make bourbon season magical.

George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey
14 Years Old
106 Proof (53% abv)
$65

Tasting Notes:

Nose:
Familiar Dickel sweetness and fruit, more muted and masked behind an obvious gust of lumber. Big bouquet of apple pie, black cherry, sweet cinnamon pastry, crushed rock/powdery undercurrent, dry dusty oak, sawdust, and orange peel.
The nose is enticing, mature, and very singular. The layers are diverse but cohesive with a very melded feel.

Palate:
Creamy vanilla, spicy cinnamon heat, baked apples, maraschino cherry, and tart green fruit. Mid sip gives way to a wave of comforting, balanced fall spices: a pleasant flash of prickly cinnamon syrup, nutmeg, and clove. Prickly, fresh sawn dry oak emerges triumphantly and slices back through the fruitiness accompanied by a wave of warm herbal notes. Barrel char and bitter fruit notes flicker on the side palate.

Finish:
The wood emerges, revealing that it’s been just beneath the surface the whole ride. The balance is fantastic. Nasal wafts of grass and mint flow back through, Sun warmed oranges, lingering burnt brown sugar, and faint raspy pencil shavings.

Fruity, woody, and perilously drinkable. As my girlfriend says, it doesn’t burn your nose. She’s right about that, this is well crafted, corn heavy whiskey that puts together agreeable flavors cohesively, and memorably. Great autumn fruit and light spice, dry toasty wood. A whiskey to drink on a cool October night and a memorable close to a special time of year.

Score: 9.1 (Excellent)

“The great adventure of our lives. What does it mean to die when you can live until the end of the world? and what is ‘the end of the world’ except a phrase, because who knows even what is the world itself? I had now lived in two centuries, seen the illusions of one shattered by the other, been eternally young and eternally ancient, possessing no illusions, living moment to moment in a way that made me picture a silver clock ticking in a void: the painted face, the delicately carved hands looked upon by no one, looking out at no one, illuminated by a light which was not a light, like the light by which god made the world before He had made light. Ticking, ticking, ticking, the precision of the clock, in a room as vast as the universe.” – Louis de Pointe du Lac, Interview with the Vampire

Until next time, you have the bridge.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

Image

A tribute to another year’s end.

With the last eve of 2013 upon us, it’s time for a little reflection. Reflection is healthy and humble. It prompts us to analyze our decisions, grow from our failures, and celebrate our triumphs. It’s an opportunity to grow and mourn, to remember and move on. Depending on your age and the quality of the past 12 months, a new year is a welcome new beginning, or the next chapter in a great adventure. Under few circumstances should we mourn the passing of time. As mortal as we are, the celebration of a new year marks the achievement of living through an old year. If there is one thing we can all celebrate, living one more day is worthy of the honor.

2013 was a great year: I turned my passion into this community and made great friends while drinking great whiskey. My Louisville Cardinals celebrated a Basketball National Championship, and Football Cards crushed Florida in a BCS game before whipping Miami 11 months later. I was promoted at work, celebrated and mourned the finales of my two favorite shows (Breaking Bad, Dexter), and best of all got to come home every night to a happy family.

While many of those things sound pedestrian, I think we’ll look back and find those memories the most profound. When I started this site I wrote in the foreword,

“When most of us die we won’t be remembered for being the President, for curing a disease, we will be remembered by those we love by the way we laugh, the quality of our company, by our favorite meal.”

It is only fitting that we forge our happiness on those moments that make us who we are. For most of us these moments seem insignificant, but we would do well to be remembered with love for our simplicity rather than reverence for our grandeur.

Whiskey is a simple drink with humble beginnings. We love it because it is a luxury that is personal and affordable. It is a luxury that we can share with friends, drink while reading a great book, sip by a warm fireside, and toast to a better tomorrow. Whiskey is an old photograph of loved ones gone, and a tribute to new friends and affections. It is a dusty farm road, a winter trail, and a busy city crosswalk. Whiskey is everyone and everything. It is the mechanic slamming shots of Devil’s Cut while the jukebox blares, it’s the accountant with 4 fingers of scotch sitting beside a stack of files. It’s a young student toasting to immortality, and a smiling old veteran of whom death is an old foe. Whiskey is whatever we need it to be, and it has been my pleasure to celebrate it with you this year.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof
12 Years Old
134.2 Proof (67.1 abv)
$50

Tasting Notes:

Nose:
Chocolate pie, maple syrup, roasted peanuts, sugar daddy candy. Praline scents of butter, brown sugar, toasted pecans, swirl around the murky core flavors. Bananas foster and espresso make an appearance. There are lofty punches of alcohol, but each smack brings you back for a deeper breath. In nature there are warning signs to indicate danger, this bourbon tells you that it is a prize, but makes it known there is a price to pay.

Palate:
Chile pepper dark chocolate, powdered sugar, fiery cinnamon spice plant themselves on the tip of your tongue. As the sip rolls back a Davey Crockett localized nuclear bomb ignites. Blistering waves of brown sugar, heavily sweetened toasted pecans flare from the center of your tongue out. Waves of heat rise like the July sun off a sidewalk. The bourbon beats your tongue like a dribbling basketball, each bounce releasing a flash of wood spice and sugary napalm that coats the whole palate. The texture is intense, irreplaceable, and satisfying at a primal level. At this proof, the barrel has completely caught fire. There is little noticeable wood outside of the spice.

Finish:
A delayed burst of brown sugar sweetness coats the tongue. Dry, nutty aromas and mint sweep back through, dominating the nasal influence of this bourbon. Flares of black pepper, sharp hacks of barrel spice and cinnamon.

A few splashes of water is the way to take this beast. If you sip it at full strength do so in half teaspoons unless you have recently updated your will.

I kid of course, this pour is a brute, but a beautiful one. I think a lot of the craft is lost at full proof, but a simple tablespoon of water lowers the boilers enough to revel in what is a masterful expression of pure whiskey. That being said, it is a beautifully crafted pour, a monster and a juggernaut, but a specimen worthy of praise and contention among the best examples of its type. There are not many whiskeys in the world I would rather have. Bravo, Heaven Hill!

Let 2014 be a celebration of all of the things great about living: great friends, strong bonds of affection, love given freely, and of course great whiskey.

Score: 9.5 (Fantastic)

“But it does not seem that I can trust anyone,’ said Frodo.
Sam looked at him unhappily. ‘It all depends on what you want,’ put in Merry. ‘You can trust us to stick with you through thick and thin–to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours–closer than you keep it yourself. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Until next time, you have the bridge. Happy New Years.

Battle “Rye”ale

Image

Well, I suppose first things are first. For those of you who lend your support and readership to this blog I offer my apologies for such an extended absence. As those of you familiar with contemporary Kentucky weather know, our recent winters tend to be whiplash affairs with dry, sunny days in the 70′s sandwiched between snowstorms, bone chilling rain, and the occasional tornado. Call it global warming, blame it on sorcerers, whatever your belief system dictates we can agree Kentucky is Mother Nature’s Yahtzee board. The weather has taken a toll on my palate and nose and I refrained from reviewing in fear of misleading you or misrepresenting a product. Just in time for Christmas my palate has recovered from a limp and I can actually taste the difference between mouthwash and whiskey.

To me, nothing says America quite like winter. It was in warm taverns on cold nights in New England that a brave generation plotted the rise of a new nation. An open fire, crackling in the fireplace has become a symbol of home and hospitality, and warmed the hearts of many to help keep alive a season of giving and joy. The beauty of endless seas of white sheen, and playful icicles have inspired poets, playwrights, and artists, and lit up the faces of millions of children who first gazed on a canvas of untouched snow. Summer keeps the spirit of America alive, but winter keeps the heart. So when I sit by a warm fire, or see moonlight glinting off of fresh snow, I think back to how magical this season has been to so many for so long, and I pour myself a glass of the best winter companion, a whiskey that started it all for this country: rye whiskey.

Rye whiskey is seeing somewhat of a very welcome resurgence in the past few years. Relegated to dying labels and cheap blended whiskey type deals, out of nowhere rye rose from the ashes. Bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts around the globe found a renewed passion for the Manhattan, and America’s founding whiskey. The bold, spicy flavor and botanical influences represent the things we find comforting about winter, and for me there is no better drink to warm you from the toes up.

Let’s welcome our challengers to the ring, in the left corner…

Willet Family Estate 4 Year Old straight Rye Whiskey
110 Proof (55% abv)
$36

Tasting Notes:

Nose:
Pine needles, piercing rye spice, hefty sticky sweetness: sorghum and honey. Eucalyptus, fresh dill (at first I thought I was losing it, some research indicates this is a common observation of LDI ryes, although I’ve never noticed it before in Bulleit).

Palate:
Big mouthfeel, large sticky spoonful of spiced honey up front, a mouthful of lemon-pine aromatics hover as a big blast of black pepper and rye spice flash bang your tongue. Some sun dried oak behind the curtain, as well as sweet peppermint and camphor, and sweet dill relish, briny spice.

Finish:
Menthol coolness with some lingering honey sweetness are most prominent. Bitter oak shavings and pine sap make an appearance as peppery spices keeps your tongue buzzing.

Not particularly complex stuff but an excellent presentation of flavor. It’s easy drinking with great rye whiskey fundamentals at an interesting proof that allows a young whiskey some playing time.

Score:
8.5 (Very good)

——

Sazerac Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey
90 Proof (45% abv)
$28

Tasting Notes:

Nose:
Very light, clean nose. Prominent notes of honey, tart apple, and crisp rye spice. Green tea, dry peppermint, anise, lemon balm and a bold, unique breeze of fresh salted melon that ties everything together.

Palate:
Cool and dry, immediately you get a bright mix of floral, honeyed sweetness and floral fruit flavors. Orange blossom and apple. Before you get the the back of the sip dry, dusty oak is sweeping your front palate, wood spice and chili heat are crackling and sizzling on the back end, lighting the way for sweet Moroccan mint tea, lemon zest, and honeydew melon.

Finish:
Notable bitterness, clean and floral, honeysuckle, spearmint, buzzing spice, and sweet tea.

Great potential, I wish this expression was at a higher proof, I think it has the best flavors of all of the ryes reviewed here, but lacks presenting them well because of the proof. The subtlety and earthiness of this pour could really shine at 100-110 proof and really make Handy being so rare an easier pill to swallow.

Score:
8.6 (Very good)

——

Rittenhouse Rye Straight Kentucky Rye Whiskey, Bottled in Bond
100 Proof (50% abv)
$26

Tasting Notes:

Nose:
Hershey’s chocolate syrup, peanut brittle, and a cloud of acetone like polished wood sits above the murky, thick sweet notes. This polish gets out of the way the more you nose. Ticklish spice, salted toasted nuts, caramel round out a candied, pleasantly briny nose. Not unlike a Payday.

Palate:
Creamy sweetness upfront, salty caramel with hints of honey. Dark chile pepper chocolate, with black pepper and cinnamon spice rolling evenly behind the sweet notes and straight into subdued wet oak, cinnamon syrup and wood spice.

Finish:
Sticky bitter dark chocolate, bitter oak, varnish, spicy spearmint.

Oily but not particularly forceful. A bit of a light finish for 100 proof is probably the weakest part, and picking a weakness with this whiskey is truly nitpicking. Great dark chocolate flavors and well balanced spice, this pour is dark and mysterious up front with unique flavors and superb balance, but lacks the same power on the back end. I would love to see this at cask strength. I’m sure this would be a superstar straight from the barrel.

Score:
8.8 (Great)

——

High West Rendevous Rye
92 Proof (46% abv)
$50

Tasting Notes:

Nose:
Camphor and pine needles. Pleasant vanilla cupcake creaminess, light smokiness and pine sap, hints of lapsang Souchong, herbal and slightly medicinal. Hefty rye spice is apparent but not dominant. The depth of the older rye holds this together and binds everything with a honeyed center.

Palate:
Sweet, gentle, and cooling. Creamy menthol, eucalyptus, peppermint, tame rye prickles, vanilla cake batter. Thick mouthfeel with a gliding quality. Tightly wrapped with a good presentation of flavor, the rye is most felt through its botanical notes, the creaminess and sweetness are very bourbon like, welcome additions to an elegant whiskey.

Finish:
Short and nasal, good puffs of chlorophyll and sweet mint, sappy green wood, very faint cinnamon sweetness. There is a faint drying quality.

A bright and gentle whiskey. Creamy and herbal with well executed flavor. I would like to see this at a higher proof to really ramp some spice into it. The old rye ratio must be pretty heavy, as this drink is sweet and tamed like an old farm dog. A beautiful expression.

Score:
9.0 (Excellent)

And so Rendezvous emerges victorious in this showdown. In a lineup of such fantastic, well made whiskies, really we all win. The diversity and craftsmanship that has made the bourbon market so adventurous is currently dusting the cobwebs off of rye whiskey, and we as customers stand at the apex of a great renaissance.

“To the American People: Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind. To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas. If we think on these things, there will be born in us a Savior and over us will shine a star sending its gleam of hope to the world.”
– Calvin Coolidge

I have never pretended to be very religious, and I doubt that will change anytime soon. And so I leave you with a quote that I feel like sums up a month and a season that many find great solace in. No matter your religion, or cultural background, for Americans this is a month of togetherness. I will always stand by the messages of unity, shared prosperity, and humility. So this holiday season, take a sip for me, give a gift or a hug to a loved one, and look in your neighbors’ basket to make sure they have enough. Happy Holidays to all of you. Until next time, you have the bridge.

Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch 2013

Image

It’s dusty and littered with dog hair. The second part is unsurprising, everything in my house seems to be. The jacket is crinkled and the edges curled and tattered. I’ve never really liked jackets on books. The character of a book is inside, obviously. I guess that’s why there are always agonizingly generic pictures on book covers. A young hand holding an apple, a peaceful stream. Give me a break. The first thing I do is slip the jacket off, free it from its stuffy confines. I run my finger down the spine and flip it open. The pages are yellowed, and they split open to a dried, pressed rose. I don’t even remember what that was for. Everything changes.

I like books. I don’t read as much as I used to, as much as I should. I’m getting older and more cynical, I think that not reading accelerates those things. Depending on who you talk to books are either happy distractions or the savior for a lost generation, too lazy to spell out complete words. I suppose I fall somewhere in the middle. I like the same things about bourbon that I like about books. I feel like the right one, at the right time, can change things for you. Bourbon and books are affordable luxuries. They are tiny personal adventures, a pocket universe that you get to escape to. The right book or the right drink make life special, bearable. But the right book and the right drink? They can make life complete.

Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch 2013
103.2 Proof (51.6 abv)
$90

Tasting Notes:

Nose:
Elegant and refined. Sweet varnish, warm white sugar, golden apples, ripe pear, autumn spice, gentle stiff oak, toasted vanilla, chocolate covered cherries. The notes dance subtly and beautifully around a core of familiar Four Roses sweetness and fruit with bright uplifting oak. The way the aromas dance out of this bourbon is playful and familiar, but mysterious and graceful. The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Palate:
Luxurious brandied fruits, maraschino cherry. Weighty, velvet mouthfeel with quick hitting, almost elusive taste elements. Rich red berries, brown sugar, oranges and clove, gentle black pepper lays down a layer of subtle prickles as the sip moves back to light oak, bitter orchard fruit notes.

Finish:
Warm and lengthy with notes of black cherry and vanilla, dry, dusty oak, rose water and lingering ticklish spice.

This years Limited Edition Small Batch is composed of a mingling of 3 bourbons: 18 year OBSV (High rye, delicate fruitiness) 13 year OBSK (High rye, spicy) and OESK (Lower rye, spicy). Standalone any of these Four Roses Recipes serve as masterpieces of whiskey, but their marriage in this release is a sum greater than its parts.

Elegant and subtle, if not a bit understated. This bourbon is familiar and the flavors are perfectly balanced. This is easy drinking even at barrel proof. It is cordial and cohesive, expertly layered and organized. I originally felt like the potential of this bourbon may be scaled back a bit because it is so damn even keeled, but it is perilously drinkable and subtly complex if you take the time to unfold all of the corners. An old friend, a great book, a classic opera. Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition is a monumental expression of whiskey.

Score:
9.7 (Classic)

“I am not a smart man, particularly, but one day, at long last, I stumbled from the dark woods of my own, and my family’s, and my country’s past, holding in my hands these truths: that love grows from the rich loam of forgiveness; that mongrels make good dogs; that the evidence of God exists in the roundness of things. This much, at least, I’ve figured out. I know this much is true.”
― Wally Lamb, I Know This Much Is True

Until next time, you have the bridge.

Four Roses Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Image

*Contains spoilers for the Showtime hit series Dexter*

Sunday night I watched the character that has been a part of my life for nearly a decade give up. For 8 years Dexter has been the thing that goes bump in the night, the untouchable strategist. He saw his wife slaughtered by a killer he toyed with, laughed in the face of a Police Sergeant when he threatened his secrets, and watched calmly as he manipulated his sister into becoming a reluctant monster alongside him. For nearly a decade, he has been one step ahead. Dexter lost a select few battles but he never lost the war. In the end, those who opposed him always ended up on his table wrapped in plastic. Sunday, he finally found someone he couldn’t put on his table: himself. I watched Dexter Morgan lose everything, watched as he sailed with a straight face, and a heart full of blazing, feral pain and anger head on into an ominous hurricane.

It was a disappointing end to a great series, but in many ways very fitting. After so long spent trying to rid the world of his enemies and protect the people he loved, Dexter realized the biggest threat to those people was always him. So he sailed into a monster as black as himself. With waves shattering his flailing boat, and winds howling in a thousand haunting voices, Dexter and his dark passenger went deliberately into oblivion.

It left me wondering about the things we all hide in ourselves, our dark passengers. While most of us aren’t serial killers, we all have secrets that we try to protect our loved ones from, secrets we protect even from ourselves. So tonight’s review is a toast to Dexter, and to all of our dark passengers.

Four Roses Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
100 Proof (50% abv)
$30

Tasting Notes:

Nose:
Instant uplifting spice and confectionary sweetness. Big plumes of Kentucky Colonel spearmint, and piercing caramel icing sweetness. It reminds me of homemade potato candy with the rich powdered sugar sweetness and savory peanut butter. Loads of rich vanilla and spicy sweet herbal notes flash bang your nose and then drift back to earth carrying faint black pepper notes, big doses of rye spice, cinnamon, and clove. The whole nose is underscored by a chai tea like richness.

Nosing this bourbon is like watching a fireworks display, you get big obvious blasts of aroma with each inhale and then new, less bombastic, subtle, notes follow before flickering out. Well layered, but bound together by a distinct richness most close to chai tea spices.

Palate:
Rich maple candy sweetness with an immediate blast of crackling spice: cinnamon, clove, and red hots. The sweetness is explosive, like igniting a match in your mouth. Big brown sugar flavors coat the palate, waves of cinnamon-sugar spice, and spiced honey steamroll your tongue, pulling along chili pepper, black pepper notes, with clover and faint sawdust. The mouthfeel is oily, like a light syrup.

Finish:
Faint toasted oak notes, lingering oily sweetness, honey, and ample doses of sweet spearmint–think Wrigley’s gum.

Four Roses Single Barrel is probably the best sweet/spice balanced regular bourbon offering on the market. It is cohesive and lively with great complexity and adventurous textures. A very thoughtful bourbon, with big explosions of flavor and a cloying interplay between taste elements. There are big burning collisions of cinnamon with chilling doses of fresh mint, and heavy, in your face sweetness. A masterful bourbon, and a fitting end to a masterful story. Cheers to you, and your dark passenger.

Score:
9.3 (Excellent)

“It’s said that everything is connected to everything. The butterfly effect. You drop a pebble into a pond and the ripples radiate outwards touching and effecting everything. Until finally a fish grows arms and legs and crawls out of the water…and picks up a rock and smashes the next two fish over the head…and we have the first serial killer.”
- Dexter Morgan

Until next time, you have the bridge.

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2013

Image

Fall is the best. There is something melancholy and beautiful about this transitional season that strikes an emotional chord with so many of us. Nature paints a brilliant backdrop with a vibrant warm palate, the first chilly crisp breeze makes the music of rustling leaves, and the smells of cider, clove, and pumpkin fill homes. Fall is special to me because it is the most contemplative season. All around us trees put on a magnificent display: an ode to the end. Geese honk overhead as they ride the increasingly frigid winds to a warmer home. Slowly, lightning bugs that filled the summer skies flicker out to make way for crisp morning fog. Fall is nature’s final movement, the crescendo before the end. Fall is our first subconscious lesson in mortality, in change.

Fall is a gateway to winter, one at we reluctantly pass through each year with the promise that spring will soon be here. Flowers will bud, and tiny neon leaves will dot the bare limbs winter leaves behind. Spring is a lesson in hope, fall is a lesson in change. The only thing that ever remains the same is that things will always change. As the buildings around us grow or crumble, photographs fade, friends leave, and loved ones pass, the more the changes of fall become comfortable and familiar. And so it is for me, that fall is the best, most human season. It’s an opportunity to sit with a warm sweater and a glass of bourbon and make peace with the year past. To reflect on what we have lost, understand that all things have an end, and to look forward to our new beginnings. The year ends in December, but it should end in fall. All things end here, but it isn’t as sad as it could be. In fact, it’s lovely.

Every year Brown-Forman releases the newest edition of Old Forester Birthday Bourbon. It is representative of the best bourbon they have to offer in any given year, and comes out on or near the birthday of George Gavin Brown, who founded the brand and lends his name to the company that produces it today. OFBB is 12 years old, and while the recipe and age remain constant, the release is unique each year. This year it is the first Fall release special edition bourbon I have gotten my hands on, and if it is any indication this is going to be a special season.

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2013 Edition
12 Years Old
97 Proof (48.5% abv)
$50

Tasting Notes:

Nose:
Sweet,creamy, with rich spice and fruit. Parfait of red berries, roasted nuts, cloves and oranges, black cherry, crisp warm oak and toasted vanilla. Cherry cordial ice cream, caramel icing, German chocolate cake. Air time concentrates the sweetness of this pour, bringing out deep maple/praline scents.
Simply a superb nose. One of the most well rounded, unmistakable characteristics of a whiskey to date.

Palate:
The first thing that strikes you about this bourbon is it’s incredible mouthfeel. Creamy, whipped butter texture with dark toffee sweetness. Tiny hints of spice spark up to split the creaminess briefly. Milk chocolate flavors elbow through, big Sweet rush of Berry syrup, cinnamon liqueur, and spiced honey. Mid sip leads with big burst of splintered wood, and dry peppery wood spices. Pencil shavings, black pepper, and stabs of warm chile heat and honeyed sweetness stand triumphant at the end.

Finish:
Warm, dry, and robust. Dried lumber, over ripe strawberry, lingering sweet spice and layers of prickly soft warmth. Inviting, comforting, and contemplative.

One of very few bourbons I’ve ever had that really elevates itself to a point of cohesion that nearly transcends individual flavors. There are still things dancing around my palate that I just can’t pin down. There isn’t a better bourbon to kickoff the season. This tastes like September, It’s distinct, complex, flavorful, and a work of art. Superb.

Score:
9.6 (Classic)

“But then fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you.”
― Stephen King, Salem’s Lot

Until next time, you have the bridge.

Eagle Rare 10 year old Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Image

Few things say, “America” like bourbon and eagles. In a land where brown liquor, six shooters, and eagle apparel became entry stakes for pop culture patriotism cliches, a bourbon like Eagle Rare has stood strong as a marketers dream for decades. Eagle Rare has the unique branding capability to combine it’s rustic Americana imagery with premium packaging and a high end price point. Somewhere in-between it has been well received critically, exploded in consumer popularity and became one of the most recognized bourbons available.

I have a borderline tacky soft spot for eagles and American related paraphernalia. You will find the American Declaration of Independence framed and matted on my wall. I own (tragically) American flag swim trunks. I have multiple iconic photographs of American history in my man-cave. I have set the stage for a brand like Eagle Rare to glide in and snare my affections…but are our tastes merely products of marketers’ manipulation, pretty bottles, and age statements?

Eagle Rare 10 year old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
90 Proof (45% abv)
$30

Tasting Notes:

Nose:
Honey roasted nuts, bitter dark chocolate, Michigan cherry coffee, sweet roasted yellow corn, crushed maraschino cherry, cola, sun dried sticky raisins.
The candy sweet cherry notes play the most consistent role, snaking behind the dark, brooding qualities of chocolate, coffee, and earthy brine.

Palate:
Weighty upfront sweetness, briny with an obvious assist from the toasted nut quality from the nose. Vanilla taffy, and salt water caramel taffy. As the sip moves back, the front of the tongue is left with tip-toeing barrel spice, a half a pinch of white pepper. Mid-palate: the pour rushes in and dissolves into a puff of nasally mint and wood. Bitter tannins storm from the sides of your tongue to meet in a woody massacre on the back stage. The wood resin grips this drink and beats the back of your tongue with a green switch. The drink, tannins and all glides through quickly and mercifully.

Finish:
Freshly bruised mint, bitter chocolate, bright, fresh split oak, nasal mix of hay and mown grass, bitter cold black coffee. The finish is brief and nasal, and has an earthy foundation, although its too brief to explore.

It’s hard to get over how immediately and abruptly this drink pile-drives you with a grassy, green, woody payload. It borders on astringent and is definitely thin on the palate, which was my biggest and most thorough disappointment with this pour. The nose on this bourbon is sultry, dark, and even brooding. I loved nosing it, what it lacked in layered depth it made up for in pure power that I hoped would translate to the rest of the drink.

This is a single barrel product, and such can have variances from one barrel to the other. I admittedly have not had much Eagle Rare outside of my bottle (which the picture can demonstrate I have given a fair chance) and a few bar tastings. I have came away disappointed each time. I remember hearing a statistic that master distillers do ~ 80% of their selection by nosing only. If I nosed this bourbon, I would think it was a great barrel. That leaves me wondering how consistent this whiskey is given that huge divide.

Not to give away future reviews, but I can think of two Buffalo Trace Mashbill #1 bourbons of comparable age and less money that I think are much better executed than Eagle Rare: regular Buffalo Trace (much less oak, and nearly identical nose and richness, reportedly always 8 years old) and Old Charter 10 year (more fruit and sweetness, better balanced but still prominent oak).

This bourbon has a beautiful nose, rich, dark, and well structured. It’s execution on the palate is less balanced, less rich, and it is over-oaked. The tannins and bitter notes dominate. The earth and green wood need more mouth texture balance and a more cohesive experience to build off of. A disappointing pour, but not a bad bourbon. A well made product, that maybe had my bottle’s barrel a bit too high in the warehouse. I’m willing to give it another shot.

Score:
7.8 (Decent, but with flaws)

“I used to feel so alone in the city. All those gazillions of people and then me, on the outside. Because how do you meet a new person? I was very stunned by this for many years. And then I realized, you just say, “Hi.” They may ignore you. Or you may marry them. And that possibility is worth that one word.”
― Augusten Burroughs

Until next time, you have the bridge.